Ivan Barrow
Ivan Barrow (do note the pads) © Getty Images

Born January 16, 1911, Ivanhoe Mordecai Barrow of Jamaica was the first West Indian wicketkeeper to get an extended run, playing Tests in three countries. Usually remembered as the first West Indian to score a Test hundred on English soil, the immensely popular Barrow was competent on either side of the stumps, and would have had a longer career had World War II not intervened. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the early stars for West Indies in Test cricket — and Don Bradman’s first Test wicket.

Whether Ivanhoe Mordecai ‘Ivan’ Barrow was named after Sir Walter Scott’s masterpiece is not known, but his first name is certainly a most singular one among Test cricketers. It is not his name, however, that makes Barrow stand out.

Barrow was a reliable wicketkeeper, perhaps West Indies’ best before World War II. He stood up to the stumps against serious pace, even that of Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine, with ease, often wearing glasses (as mentioned by Thomas D Lord). Wisden called him “quiet and thoroughly competent”.

He was a more than competent batsman, opening the batting in Test cricket several times. He was also the first West Indian to score a Test hundred on English soil, at Old Trafford in 1933; but more of that later.

First-Class cricket was sparse in West Indies in Barrow’s era, and his career was restricted to 68 matches in a decade (and a solitary match after World War II). He had 73 catches and 27 stumpings to his name, along with 2,551 runs at 23.84 with 3 hundreds — decent numbers for a wicketkeeper of the era.

From 11 Tests (10 as wicketkeeper) Barrow scored 276 at 16.23; he also had 17 catches and 5 stumpings.

University of Cricket

Born in Belmont Pen, Morant Bay, St Thomas, Jamaica, Barrow went to a local Hebrew school — for he was one of the earliest Jews (probably the second, after Fred Susskind) to play Test cricket. The fact was debated for a while, and was eventually confirmed by Melvyn Bennett of in an article he wrote for the Australian Jewish Historical Society.

It ran: “A few years ago, an elderly Jewish Jamaican told me that he attended Hebrew school in Jamaica in the 1920s and that one of his school friends went on to play cricket for the West Indies in the 1930s. I must confess that I was a little sceptical about the story but as I investigated further the story rang true.”

Indeed, he was talking of Barrow, but more of that later.

Barrow later went to Wolmer’s Boy’s School, Kingston, known for its tremendous success in cricket over time, and is referred to as ‘University of Cricket’ in Kingston. There is, however, a curious observation: in the same way Kent has produced the finest wicketkeepers for England, Wolmer’s has done the same, especially for Jamaica. They have produced six Test glovemen — Barrow, Karl Nunes, Gerry Alexander, Jackie Hendriks, Jeff Dujon, and Carlton Baugh, which must be a record of some sort.

Having said that, the school can also boast of at least three other Test cricketers in Allan Rae, Patrick Patterson, and Gareth Breese.

Barrow first made an impression for Jamaica Colts XVI against Lord Tennyson’s XI. Batting at No. 10 (remember, there were 16 members) he scored 20. It took him two more years to make his First-Class debut, for Jamaica against Sir Julian Cahn’s XI: Barrow scored 61 and 11, and impressed with 3 catches and 2 stumpings. He was also chosen for a representative West Indies XI.

When England toured in 1929-30, Barrow played for Jamaica twice against MCC without doing anything special. However, with the series levelled 1-1, Barrow was picked for the last Test, at Sabina Park, his home ground. He was still a teenager.

1,549 balls, 6 byes

It is debatable whether inter-island politics played a role in Barrow’s selection, but all four debutants for the Sabina Park Test — Barrow, Oscar Da Costa, George Gladstone, and Charles Passailaigue —were Jamaicans, as were four of the others: Nunes, George Headley, Freddie Martin, and Tommy Scott.

Note: Herman Griffith (Barbados), Frank de Caires (British Guiana), and Clifford Roach (Trinidad) were the others. Do note the one-from-each-island distribution.

The Test was a historic one, and is remembered for Andy Sandham’s 325 (the first Test triple-hundred) and Headley’s fourth-innings 223. Freddie Calthorpe decided to bat on in the first innings till England were bowled out for 849.

READ: George Headley scores back-to-the-wall 223 in timeless Test

Barrow kept wickets for 1,549 balls and conceded a mere 6 byes. He also played a hand in the first two dismissals, stumping George Gunn off Martin and catching Bob Wyatt off Da Costa. Unfortunately, by the time this happened, the score read 321 for 2.

West Indies were bowled out for 286 (Barrow was bowled by Ewart Astill for a duck), but Calthorpe batted on, eventually setting the hosts 836 (Barrow caught Calthorpe himself, off Scott). Headley then carved out his epic, and when the sides decided to call the Test — the tourists had to catch a boat — West Indies had scored 408 for 5.

Brightly bowls The Don

When West Indies toured Australia that antipodean summer, Barrow was included as one of the two wicketkeepers, along with Errol Hunte. Barrow eventually played all five Tests, leaving Hunte to don the big gloves in the tour matches. Jackie Grant (the captain), Lionel Birkett, Oscar Wight, Frank de Caires, and Barrow were the only white members of the touring party.

Australia won the series 4-1, but West Indies had their share of history, winning their first Test on Australian soil. Barrow had an ordinary series with the bat, managing 122 runs at 15.25, but he did a sound job behind the stumps. There is no parameter to gauge the quality of wicketkeeping; 9 catches and 2 stumpings hardly tell the story.

Barrow had his moments, especially in the first Test at Adelaide Oval. West Indies had conceded a first-innings lead of 80, and were reduced to 138 for 6 when Barrow joined Grant. He scored a gritty 27, helping Grant put on 65 in 75 minutes.

However, it is for his dismissal that he is usually remembered, especially by quizmasters, for he became the first of Don Bradman’s two Test wickets. While Barrow was LBW, Wally Hammond, Bradman’s other wicket, was bowled in the Bodyline series.

Coming back to the Test, West Indies eventually set a target of 170, but Bill Ponsford and Archie Jackson led Australia to a 10-wicket win.

Barrow’s other remarkable achievement came in the fourth Test at MCG, when he stumped Ponsford off Constantine.

That day at Old Trafford

When Tennyson brought his team to West Indies in 1931-32, Barrow played one of the most spectacular innings of his career. The tourists reached 333 before reducing Jamaica to 34 for 2 when Barrow walked out to join Headley.

The pair added 248 in no time —a record for Jamaica that stands at the time of writing this article. While Headley scored 148, Barrow outdid him with a career-best of 169; it would not be the last time they would forge a famous partnership.

Jamaica obtained a 228-run lead, and were left to chase 132. This time Barrow walked out at 12 for 2. Wickets kept falling, at 48, 82, 97, and even 129 — but Barrow, with 58 not out, saw Jamaica through.

West Indies toured England in 1933, and lost the three-Test 0-2. However, the tour was far from being eventless. To begin with, Martindale and Constantine gave England a dose of Bodyline, which eventually led to Patsy Hendren donning his famous three-peaked cap.

READ: Patsy Hendren wears the first “helmet” in cricket

West Indies were blown away at Lord’s, being bowled out for 97 and 172 and losing by an innings. Grant opted to bat at Old Trafford. Headley walked out when Roach was bowled by Nobby Clark. The score read 26 for 1.

Once the new ball was seen off, the Jamaicans raced each other at the expense of the English attack. Barrow, after being dropped thrice and surviving some close leg-before appeals, eventually beat Headley to it, reaching three figures when his illustrious partner was on 99, thereby becoming the first West Indian to score a Test hundred on England soil.

Wisden wrote: “It was only natural that Barrow should have been overshadowed by his more famous partner, but if there were several faults in his play, he showed skill in defence and a greater variety of strokes than was usually the case with him. He was at his best when driving and glancing to leg.”

By the time he was bowled by a “cleverly flighted ball” from Wyatt, he had scored 105, and the pair had added exactly 200 in 205 minutes. Headley batted through the innings with 169 as West Indies put up 375, and drew the Test.

Unfortunately, they were no match for ‘Father’ Marriott (11 for 96 on debut) at The Oval, were bowled out for 100 and 195, and lost by an innings.

Barrow had a decent tour, with 1,046 runs at 23.77, 21 catches, and 7 stumpings. In tour matches, his best performances came against Hampshire (60 and 32 in a 6-wicket win) and Lancashire (89 and 46).


When MCC toured Jamaica in 1934-35, Barrow was not considered for the first three Tests. The selectors preferred Cyril Christiani. Barrow made his way back with 105 and 40 for Jamaica in a tour match. With the series levelled 1-1, Barrow played as a specialist batsman in the final Test at Sabina Park. It did not work, for he was bowled by Ken Farnes for 3.

The match was decided by Headley’s epic 270 and inspired performances from Constantine (34, 3 for 55, and 3 for 13) and Martindale (3 for 56, 4 for 28, and ruling Wyatt out of the Test with a vicious bouncer).

England had no chance after Grant declared on 535 for 7; they were reduced to 95 for 5 in the first innings before recovering to 271, followed on, sunk without a trace for 103, and lost the series 1-2. It was West Indies’ first series win.

Fading out

Christiani was, by this time, the main wicketkeeper for West Indies, but they would not play another Test till 1939. Barrow continued to play for Jamaica in the interim. When Yorkshire toured Jamaica in 1935-36, Barrow made 59, 44, 49, and 42 in consecutive innings.

Unfortunately, malaria claimed Christiani at a mere 25, in 1938. By the time West Indies toured England in 1939, Derek Sealy was also in the run for the wicketkeeper’s slot.

Barrow, rusty owing to lack of match practice, had a terrible tour, scoring 304 runs at 13.21 without a fifty, along with 26 dismissals. Despite his ordinary show the selectors picked him as the wicketkeeper for the first Test as Lord’s while Sealy played as a batsman. In fact, Sealy had never kept wickets in his 8 Tests till then in a decade-long career.

England rode on hundreds from Len Hutton and Denis Compton and a 9-wicket match haul by Bill Copson to win by 8 wickets. Barrow scored 2 and 6*, caught Eddie Paynter off John Cameron, and never played another Test. Sealy kept wickets for the rest of the series.

By the time World War II came to an end, Barrow was a spent force. He played one final match, against Barbados; it amounted to a duck and two dismissals, and that was that.

Barrow became a racing commentator in 1940, and continued to be so. He also worked as Promotions Officer in Jamaican Industrial Development Corporation. He married Dorothy Nunes on December 14, 1950; the couple had two daughters, Janette and Gayle.

Ivan Barrow passed away in 1979. He was 68. The Jewish Heritage Society commemorated his career. A Jamaican newspaper mentioned how he made “his fellow Jamaican Jews proud” when he scored that hundred at Old Trafford.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)